Seasonal Weekend Review – “Miracle on 34th Street (1957)”

This is a little known 1957 television adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street. How little known? As far as I can tell, the IMDB has no record of it. It was an episode of the 20th Century Fox Hour, but the only version the IMDB lists has an entirely different cast.

Cast and Crew Information

Thomas Mitchell as Kris Kringle
Macdonald Carey as Fred Gaily
Teresa Wright as Doris Walker
Sandy Descher as Susan Walker
Hans Conreid as Mr. Shellhammer
Ray Collins and Judge Harper
Dick Foran as Thomas Mara
John Abbott as Dr. Sawyer

Teleplay by John Monks, Jr., based on the screenplay by George Seaton from the story by Valentine Davies.
Directed by Robert Stevenson (who also directed several Disney films, including Mary Poppins.)

Availability Information

This is on the third disc of this DVD collection.


Macy’s hires a very remarkable Santa Claus, whose sanity is questioned when it is learned that he truly believes he is Santa Claus.

High Point

The famous Post Office moment.

Low Point

The first few minutes are extremely rushed, likely because it’s a 46 minute adaptation.

The Review

It’s hard to stay original when you’re doing an adaptation of an adaptation that feels more like it has been edited for length than anything else. It’s done well enough, but it’s not terribly different from other versions aside from runtime. I give it 2 out of 6.

The effects are limited. The ambiguity about the Santa Claus would be destroyed if there were visual effects, and that would eliminate virtually all suspense. The only effects here are fake backgrounds, as people are filmed in front of screens instead of on location for the post office and the Macy’s Day Parade. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story dives in very quickly, leaving half the runtime to the third act. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. An extra three or four minutes at the beginning would have been appreciated, but it doesn’t feel like it was shortened to the point of becoming nonsensical, as with (for example) Superman IV: The Quest For Peace or David Lynch’s Dune. There are also some very clever moments in the court case that make the entire thing plausible. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting was well done. These actors worked on a lot of anthology shows, and seem to be character actors well suited to their respective roles. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was remarkable for an hourlong anthology series from the 1950s. The direction and editing were very quick and effective, far beyond the norm for the time. The music could get a little overbearing in some scenes, though. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response was very strong. In fact, of the three versions of Miracle on 34th Street I’ve seen, this is likely my favorite, as I tend to find them to drag on much longer than the concept requires. This feels like the right runtime for this particular story, and moves us there in no time. It’s hard not to smile throughout the entire second half, so I suggest not even trying to resist the urge. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is a solid adaptation of a Christmas classic. If you don’t already own a copy, consider this one; it’s definitely available at the right price. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Miracle on 34th Street (1957) receives 30 out of 42.